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I was watching a German Roman Catholic Priest speak recently in a youtube video, and he said this, which surprised me because it sounded to me like dialect. I know it's common to hear wenig or häufig with this soft "ich" at the end, but I had never heard this sound in the middle of a word before until recently, especially with an "e" before the "g." I'm guessing this must be very common in certain areas, I just didn't know about it. By the way, I almost always pronounce "ig" as "ich" when I speak German. I'm an American Southerner and language learner. I don't think I feel comfortable with bege-ichnet though. HA! :^)

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    Why don’t you link to the video and allow us to hear the speaker in question instead of “transcribing” what’s either a dialect, an accent or an individual quirk? In Germany, catholic priests may come from a multitude of countries and not all of them are native speakers, especially in the predominantly protestant areas. I have a hunch, but hesitate to answer without having heard the person in question. – Stephie Jan 6 '18 at 7:05
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    This is pretty much just northern pronunciation. – Jan Jan 6 '18 at 7:21
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    This is maybe answering your question: philhist.uni-augsburg.de/lehrstuehle/germanistik/… It's the same phenomenon, in my opinion – tofro Jan 6 '18 at 9:57
  • @Jan: Hessen liegt nicht gerade im Norden. – Björn Friedrich Jan 6 '18 at 10:06
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    It's a bit hard to discern from the question what exactly you are hearing. The responses so far have discussed the question of /ç/ instead of /ɡ/, which I think should address (at least) most of your question. But are you saying there's an extra /ɪ/ before the /ç/? If so, you may wish to clarify that. (This would be a regional feature as well, from what I can tell one of the very north.) – johnl Jan 6 '18 at 10:24
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Well, there is a rule, that is valid in most areas where German is spoken, except from the south (Austria). (Sorry, I don't know if in this special case Bavarian speakers behave like German or like Austrian speakers.) This rule says, that the syllable »∙ig« at the end of a word has to be pronounced as [ɪç].

"global" standard:

Der König ist selig, wenn wenig Honig im Teig ist.
[deːɐ̯ ˈkøːnɪç ɪst ˈzeːlɪç vɛn ˈveːnɪç ˈhoːnɪç ɪm taɪ̯k ɪst]

Note, that this rule only applies to »∙ig«, i.e. when there is just the monophthong [ɪ] (written as »i«) before the »g«. It doesn't apply to the diphthong [aɪ̯] (written as »ei« or »ai«) before the »g«. This is why »Teig« doesn't get this [ç].

Without this ∙ig-rule, you would hear the konsonant [k] instead of [ç] (like in Teig = [taɪ̯k]), which is a result of Auslautverhärtung (final-obstruent devoicing):

Der König ist selig, wenn wenig Honig im Teig ist.
[deːɐ̯ ˈkøːnɪk ɪst ˈzeːlɪk vɛn ˈveːnɪk ˈhoːnɪk ɪm taɪ̯k ɪst]

But in the south everything is different. There is neither a final-obstruent devoicing in the south, nor do Austrian native speakers pronounce »∙ig« as [ɪç]:

Austrian version:

Der König ist selig, wenn wenig Honig im Teig ist.
[deːɐ̯ ˈkøːnɪɡ ɪst ˈseːlɪɡ vɛn ˈveːnɪɡ ˈhoːnɪɡ ɪm taɪ̯g ɪst]

There also is no voiced s ([z]) in Austrian pronunciation, so »selig« is [ˈseːlɪɡ] in Austria.

Note, that there also is an artificial pronunciation in use in theaters (for speaking and for singing), which is called »Deutsche Bühnenaussprache« (German stage pronunciation). In this version »∙ig« also is pronounced as [ɪç], even on Austrian stages. But this is not a standard pronunciation.

Everything else I told you above is standard, i.e. it is taught in schools this way, and professional speakers (i.e. in radio and TV) use this pronunciation. (Which means, they speak different in Germany and Austria, because they have different standards.)

But what you described is not a standard pronunciation. There is no standard pronunciation, where »∙ig∙« in the middle of a word is pronounced as [ɪç]. This clearly is dialect pronunciation. You will hear it in some regions in Germany, but I can't tell you exactly where.

But since it is just a dialect, I strongly recommend not to use this kind of pronunciation. Learn, that it is in use in some regions, so that you will be able to understand people who speak such a dialect, but don't actively use it.

As long, as your German is not really perfect and free of any foreign language accent, nobody will believe that you are a dialect speaker. Try to understand dialect speakers (this sometimes is hard even for native speakers), but don't try to speak this way.


addendum

(Thank you, sumelic, for your comment!)

In nominalized adjectives, which are build from adjectives that end in »∙ig«, by attaching the suffix »∙keit« to the end (which results in a female noun that ands with »∙igkeit«), the g also is pronounced as [ç], as if it was still at the end of the word:

  • Tätigkeit [ˈtɛːtɪçkaɪ̯t]
  • Schwierigkeit [ˈʃviːʀɪçkaɪ̯t]
  • Arbeitslosigkeit [ˈaʁbaɪ̯ʦloːzɪçkaɪ̯t]

Also interesting, people in Austria have a new trick to avoid this [ç]: Because they don't like this [ç], and because both, [k] and [g] are hart to pronounce before [k], they just omit this consonant:

  • Tätigkeit [ˈtɛːtɪkaɪ̯t]
  • Schwierigkeit [ˈʃviːʀɪkaɪ̯t]
  • Arbeitslosigkeit [ˈaʁbaɪ̯ʦloːsɪkaɪ̯t]
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    I had the impression that "ig" can be pronounced "ɪç" in the middle of a word sometimes, for example when it comes before a suffix that starts with a voiceless consonant, as in words ending in "-igkeit" – sumelic Jan 6 '18 at 23:54
  • @sumelic: You are right. I wrote an addendum about this fact. – Hubert Schölnast Jan 7 '18 at 9:56
  • “I don't know if in this special case Bavarian speakers behave like German or like Austrian speakers.” I can’t speak for Bavaria either, but here in Franconia ;) “begechnet” is quite normal. However, it’s not a full-blown /ç/ sound, but softer, kind of like an aspirated g. – besc Jan 7 '18 at 19:48
  • Ich finde es eigenartig, dass hier und auf Wikipedia von einer fehlenden Auslautverhärtung im Österreichischen die Rede ist. Abgesehen davon, dass ich es anders gelernt habe und auch (hier)[de.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%96sterreichisches_Deutsch#Plosive] davon die Rede ist, wiederspricht es total meiner Selbstbeobachtung: phonetisch bilde ich sicher einen stimmlosen Plosiv am Ende von <König>, vielleicht im Unterschied zu einem aspirierten am Anfang. Siehe auch (hier)[othes.univie.ac.at/6128/], p. 96. – phipsgabler Jan 14 '18 at 21:24
  • @phg: Ich (geb. 1965 in Graz, bis 96 in der Stmk (Graz, Bruck/Mur), 97 bis 2015 in Wien, seit 2016 in St.Pölten) beobachte, dass die Auslautverhärtung in Österreich zwar existiert, aber wesentlich schwächer ausgeprägt ist als in Deutschland. Ich beobachte auch, dass sie in den letzten Jahrzehnten zugenommen hat. Junge Sprecher in großen Städten verhärten etwas, alte Sprecher und Sprecher die am Land leben fast gar nicht. Mein Eindruck: Die ur-österreichische Aussprache hat keine Auslautverhärtung, aber deutsches Fernsehen bringt die deutsche Aussprache nach Österreich und führt zu einem Wandel – Hubert Schölnast Jan 15 '18 at 6:12
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which surprised me because it sounded to me like dialect.

Why are you surprised?

The German language is one of the languages where a lot of people speak dialects - even in "official" situations like in television, public speeches etc.

I know it's common to hear wenig or häufig with this soft "ich" at the end

As far as I know official German pronounciation rules say that "-ig" at the end of a word is pronounced as "-ich" but "-ig-" in the middle in the word is not pronounced as "-ich-".

(Here in the south people do not do so; "-ig" in some regions even is pronounced as "-ik".)

but I had never heard this sound in the middle of a word before until recently

This seems to be very common in northern Germany.

(In the south people never do that.)

  • The reason it surprised me is because I think of Roman Catholic Priests as representing a higher class of people. The sound I was describing really sticks out to me, but it's probably because I'm an American who learned German in a classroom in America. To Germans, it probably sounds more or less normal. I was only ever in Germany for two months years ago. – user31428 Jan 7 '18 at 2:03
  • @Z1USA, wir sind hier nicht in Indien, wo Leute Kasten (de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaste) zugeordnet sind. Selbst dann hieße das noch lange nicht, dass Dialekte kastenspezifisch wären. – Björn Friedrich Jan 7 '18 at 9:45
  • @BjörnFriedrich: Ich würde nicht von Kasten sprechen, das wäre in der Tat zu weit hergeholt, aber in vielen Städten ist trotzdem zu beobachten, dass es dort mehrere Dialekte nebeneinander gibt, die nicht regional, sondern sozial geschichtet sind. Ich habe knapp 20 Jahre lang in Wien gelebt, und dort sprechen Müllmänner, Automechaniker und Briefträger einen ganz anderen Dialekt als Banker, Ärzte und Orchestermusiker, obwohl sie in derselben Stadt leben, manchmal sogar nur ein, zwei Häuserblocks voneinander entfernt. – Hubert Schölnast Jan 7 '18 at 10:06
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    @Z1USA It was the former chief of the German Government, Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who had a very strong dialect. He pronounced "gnädig" as "knädik" for example. "High class" does not prevent from speaking dialect! – Martin Rosenau Jan 7 '18 at 17:33
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    @Z1USA First: Roman Catholic Priests (including Bishops) normally are sons of "regular" people. So they learned the language from their "regular" parents. Second: Two hundred years ago the "official" German language did not exist, yet, but only dialects. I can imagine that it is tradition in some noble families to speak the dialect which was the offical language in "their" region two hundred years ago. – Martin Rosenau Jan 8 '18 at 6:30
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I am not a German speaker, nor do I know much about German dialects, so this is just my guess as a learner about what is going on in the pronunciation that you noticed. I can't describe in what regions this occurs, but I hope my answer helps to clarify the contexts where you can expect to hear this kind of pronunciation of "g".

To me, it looks like it is actually the combination of two variations in the pronunciation of German.

1. The use of /ç/ for hard (devoiced) "g" in general (not just in "-ig" words)

Other answers have mentioned the use of /ç/ instead of /k/ in some regions for the hardened (or devoiced) pronunciation of "g" after any front vowel (and not just in the ending "-ig"). I think this is related to the use of /j/ intervocalically after a front vowel instead of /g/ in some dialects, but I don't know if these phenomena always go together or if you can have one without the other. It also seems related to the use of /x/ instead of /k/ after back vowels (e.g. in the word "Tag").

2. Hardening the first consonant in intervocalic clusters like "-gn-"

The other thing that I think is happening here is hardening a consonant in an intervocalic consonant cluster ending in "n". This is apparently not done in standard "textbook" German when the cluster occurs as the result of historical elision of a vowel (e.g. for "begegnet", there is the related word "gegen" with an "e" between the "g" and "n"), but it occurs for many actual German speakers. (The rule for devoicing or not in clusters like "gn" in standard German is actually rather complicated; see the following question for details: When is the last sound of a syllable unvoiced?)

Another example could be "bn" in "ebnen", for which the Duden gives the pronunciation "[ˈeːbnən]", but which I think some people would pronounce with /p/ (see the Google Books passage from this book: Final Devoicing in the Phonology of German, by Wiebke Brockhaus).

Wiktionary also lists various pronunciations for the similar word "regnen", saying:

IPA(key): /ˈʁeːɡnən/ (prescriptive standard)
IPA(key): /ˈʁeːknən/ (most common)
IPA(key): /ˈʁeːçnən/ (northern and central Germany; chiefly colloquial)

This is consistent with the comments other users have made saying that you would not hear /çn/ in "begegnet" from southern speakers.

3? Diphthongization of long "e" (it's unclear if you are describing this)

As johnl pointed out in the comments, if you actually meant to say that you are hearing an "i" sound after the "e" vowel, that would constitute a third phenomenon which I don't know about so I can't really say anything about it.

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Most people in Saxon say "be-gech-net" instead of "be geg net". In fact, they really have the most funny German dialect. Watch some videos about it.

Also people in Hamburg do that. They have a "smooth" dialect where nobody ever speaks a "g" in the middle of a word.

You can say it's northern pronounciation.

  • What would you say, if someone says that your way of speaking is funny? – Hubert Schölnast Jan 6 '18 at 15:23
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    @HubertSchölnast The fun lies in the ears of the beholder. – Christian Geiselmann Jan 6 '18 at 16:19

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